5 reasons why engagement programmes fail

I promise this isn’t going to be another article telling you that employee engagement is the best thing since sliced bread etc.  It’s about five key points that matter, if you have any interest in this subject at all, that are often the cause of engagement programmes failing.

Let’s keep this brief – as someone who’s worked in employee engagement for over 20 years, here are five things that you either:

  • Won’t get told
  • Will try and ignore as they’re either not easy or ‘appear’ to be too easy, or
  • Won’t find the time to do them properly as the line on the project plan isn’t long enough.

All of them are crucial though, not only to understand what it’s all about, but more importantly to make it work!

1.    It’s not real

Yes, you may need a strategy, plan etc but you could probably count the people on one hand who care about it and have read it.  They only care about results, results that they can personally see, hear and feel.  Put simply, they only care about ‘what’s in it for me’, so your focus needs to be more on real, tangible, small changes that make a difference to real people every day.  It’s amazing what a difference a simple ‘thank you’ can make.

2.    Treating people like sheep

There are as many ways to engage staff as there are employees.  You need to try different ways to find out what works (and they won’t always be successful).  It needs to work for them, not you.  If you’re organising or responsible for engagement in some way then you’re not important, they are, so get used to that and start asking questions.  You, or rather your managers, need to know them well to engage them as they’re all unique and individual.  If you think you know what to do, without talking to the people you want to engage, then it’s likely you’ll mess it up.

3.    Not developing managers

If, like me, you read all the latest research into engagement, you’ll see a lot of articles asking if the world has been trying to engage employees for so long, then why are they still not engaged?  The answer to that is simple, ‘YOU’RE NOT DOING THE RIGHT STUFF!’  You need to understand that engagement is about behaviour and people’s ability to engage others rather than just relying on doing ‘more stuff’ and crossing your fingers.  Start developing the people that matter so they can do the job you’re asking them to do.  If you want to engage your employees, your managers are the only people that can do this.  Most of them don’t know where to start and often need support to develop the skills and behaviour to become effective.  Plan how you’re going to offer support to these people, without them your efforts to build an engaged workforce are doomed.

4.    Ego

A common piece of advice that you’ll hear if you’re looking to develop engagement, is the need to prepare and involve the leadership team as engagement needs to be lead from the top etc.  Sometimes that’s true, but in our experience, there’s something else that needs to happen alongside it, and that’s to ‘lose the ego’.  There’s nothing more destructive to engagement than ‘ego’, and everything that goes with it like levels of hierarchy, power, politics, who has a parking space etc.  All the type of stuff we know and hate, that sadly exists in many organisations, is where disengagement starts.  Do prepare the leadership team but ensure that your preparation makes it clear that their role is to be the people they really are rather than the job title they hold – people can tell when they’re not being authentic.

5.    Forgetting to tell people

Tell people what you’re doing again and again – don’t just relay on numerous communications to do it for you as they blur into one in most people’s eyes.  Engagement is about ‘human beings’ – the only thing that makes a difference is human connection and a good old conversation.  So, get your message clear, tell people and ask them to spread the word. Communicating even simple messages takes time and can be tedious but it’s essential.

If you get stuck then drop us a line as there’s much more where this came from.  There’s never a charge for a conversation, and to be honest, we quite like talking about this stuff so it will brighten our day.